Dr. Manny Alvarez: Hurricane Maria’s second direct hit: Puerto Rico’s health care system

Hurricane Maria has had a devastating impact on Puerto Rico’s health care system, in addition to creating historic destruction of lives and property.

Over the last decade Puerto Rico has been suffering from an economic recession. Due to this recession there has been a massive exodus of people leaving the island and going to the U.S. mainland. If you look at that migration it has been mostly middle class and professionals –including doctors and nurses whose skills are sorely missed on the island.

A man tries to salvage a table belonging to his restaurant before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017.

 (REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas)

For these and other reasons, the health care system in Puerto Rico has been deteriorating. There are long delays in emergency rooms, long delays getting emergency services to respond to critical patients, and a shortage of physicians and nurses. And this was before Maria made things much worse.

The health statistics of Puerto Rico are quite problematic. Life expectancy for men is an average of 75 years. The physician ratio is about 1.75 per 1,000 people and the quality of the health care system ranks 69 percent overall compared to states in the U.S. Many Puerto Ricans receive Medicaid and Medicare and many people are uninsured.

Cars drive past a damaged…

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